- Great performances
- Hilarious moments
- Great commentary on dating vs online dating
- Solid twists and turns
- Doesn't reinvent "horror comedy" wheel
- A bit too gory for mainstream audiences
Sebastian Stan delivers a great, against-type performance alongside the terrific Daisy Edgar-Jones in this dark, hilarious thriller.
The horrors of modern dating are seen through the eyes of a young woman who is battling to survive her new boyfriend’s unusual appetites.
Online dating can be a drag these days. But is the alternative always better? That’s the question we’re presented with in the beginning of “Fresh”, Mimi Cave’s directorial debut – and a terrific debut at that. We begin with Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones, terrific) on a date with one of the many disappointing prospects where she unfortunately chose to swipe right. Once the date ends, Noa explains to the man up-front that they may not be a good match. The date responds bitterly, cursing Noa and storming off. From here, we see her at a supermarket wherein she meets the charming, handsome Dr. Steve (Sebastian Stan, excellent). After this typical meet-cute, the two begin to date and become close.
After several dates, Steve invites Noa to his cabin in the woods for a relaxing, romantic weekend. Against the warnings of her best friend Mollie (Jonica T. Gibbs, excellent in her supporting turn), Noa decides to go and spend time with her new beau. After they arrive, in a place with little to no signal, the two share a cocktail and Noa falls unconscious. This is where the film really takes off – it’s also the point (20-something minutes in) where the opening credits begin to roll. Noa wakes up, chained to a floorbed and this where we learn Steve’s terrifying secret and simultaneously the title’s great punchline – he collects fresh body parts of young women he captures and sells them to rich cannibal customers. Racing against time (and loss of more body parts), Noa tries to think of a way to escape her charismatic captor. Meanwhile, Mollie – in the running for best Final Girl BFF of all time – tries to investigate the location of her friend as well as the real identity of “Steve”.
Director Mimi Cave and writer Lauryn Kahn create a perfect balance of horror and comedy with these three characters. Sebastian Stan delivers one of the best against-type performances – the film’s pump fake of introducing him as the perfect nice guy then slowly revealing this Patrick Bateman-like level of cruelty behind his character is genius. Scenes where he matter-of-factly explains to Noa that he plans to chop her up and sell each part of her paired with scenes of him dancing happily as he slices and dices other victims are moments of great menacing comedy. This pairs up nicely with Daisy Edgar-Jones’ Noa as she shares many intriguing tête-à-tête moments with Steve, trying to find a way into his deranged head so she can find a way out. Jonica T. Gibbs also serves a scene-stealing performance as Mollie as her facial expressions and wisecracks perfectly complement the tense situations she finds herself in while tracking down her friend.
“Fresh” is a terrific horror comedy. Sebastian Stan kills it with his manipulative, charismatic performance and Daisy Edgar-Jones delivers with a unique Final Girl-like performance. While I wouldn’t predict that the film may carry the same kind of influence on dating commentary that “Promising Young Woman” had on consent, it still opens the conversation of dating in general. It introduces the question of “do you ever really know who you’re courting?” Are meet-cutes safer than online dating or are both equally dangerous? I may not have the correct answer for either of these questions but one thing I know for sure is that this is a very enjoyable film and, for all things considered, that may just be enough.
“Fresh” is as subversive as it is pulpy. The initial criticism of online dating flips itself into a surprising commentary on dating itself. It keeps its twists shrewdly close to its chest as the plot moves forward and the stakes increase to a boiling point. The crude wisecracks hit hard, even in the most tense and goriest moments. “Fresh” may not reinvent the wheel on great horror comedies but it places itself in a good spot next to films such as “Bride of Chucky” or “American Psycho”. With Sebastian Stan’s terrific villainous performance as the centerpiece, the film declares itself as a solidly entertaining entry in a hybrid genre that has been starved of them.